Motherhood & Parenting

Paul’s in Surgery Right Now

Dear Readers,

I am once again asking for prayers.  Yesterday Paul began vomiting due to a migraine.  Immediately my heart leapt and then raced.  My husband and I began packing, for we knew it would end in surgery.  We called our priest.  He came over immediately and anointed him.  Our entire family made our confessions and prayed the rosary.  Shortly thereafter, I drove Paul to the ER in Rochester.

And what were my thoughts?  What were my feelings?

I had recently been meditating on Isaiah 48, and in particular verse 12, “I am He, I am the first and I am the last.”  I am He.  God is so great and so powerful.  He orders all things for good, and He will take care of us.  I must rest in His will, even if it means watching my son suffer.

While in the ER, in the dead of the night, in between trembling in pain and vomiting, we trusted in Jesus.  And we even witnessed His joy in one of the ER doctors.  She came in, looked at Paul with kindness and asked, “Do you know Jesus?”

My son smiled, and she smiled.  “He cares for you.  Stay close to Him.”

And so we are.  Paul’s in surgery right now, which will likely last 3-4 hours.  His spinal shunt had slipped out of his spine, causing fluid to buildup on his brain.  His doctor is very hopeful that by replacing it with a new one, Paul will be well, once again.

Keep us in your prayers.  I hope to send an update on him in a day or two.

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Paul in the ER last night.  He’s praying for the souls of 3 people who have died recently.

 

Call Me Catholic

I Picked Up a Hitchhiker

I really did it.  I picked up a hitchhiker for the first time the other day, with a van full of kids no less.  This was back in January, when we were living in North Dakota.

Backup a Bit

It was a bitterly cold Thursday afternoon, and the children and I were driving into town to attend the funeral of a friend.  It was one of the coldest days of the season with the wind whipping the snow around and dropping the temperature to about -30 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were still a few miles from town when I came up over a hill and spotted a man walking alongside the road.  His whole body was bent over, as he was trudging against the fierce wind.

Immediately my heart leapt, and I knew I had to offer him a ride; he’d die otherwise.  So, I yelled back to the kids that I was going to offer this man a ride, and that I’d explain my actions later.

I slowed down, breathed a prayer of protection to my guardian angel, and rolled down the window and shouted, “Hey!  You want a ride?”

A young face turned to me and halfheartedly waved.  He hadn’t heard me because of the wind.

I boldly tried again, “Get in!”

Then he understood and nodded.  He ran over and pointed to the back of the van, wondering if he ought to ride in the back?

I shook my head.  “No, sit up here, by me.”  I was going to keep my eye on this guy, after all.

He opened the door and quickly jumped in and shuddered.  Again, it was a deadly cold day.  As I picked up speed, he quietly said, “Thank you.  It’s a lot longer walk into town than I remembered.”

Dear Reader, let me tell you now, he reeked of alcohol, and my heart ached for him.  Why was he out walking on such a savagely cold afternoon?  I wanted to ask him this, but didn’t.  Instead, I told him I was driving to the Cathedral and that I’d drop him off anywhere he wanted along the way.  And again, all he said was, “Thank you.”

As I neared town, he mentioned that he’d get out at the Interstate exit.  During this time, I was asking for the guidance of Jesus.  Is there anything, dear Jesus, that you would have me say to this young man?

“I am Catholic,” I blurted out, as I pulled over at the exit.  “Please, you must take this holy card of Jesus.  He loves you so.  And here is His Mother, Mary.  She loves you too.”

There was a pause as he reached for the holy card of Jesus and the Miraculous Medal of Mary.  He looked them.

I continued, “She cares about you, you know.  He does too.”

He looked at me and said, “Thank you.”  Then he opened the door and was gone into the vicious wind.

I turned onto the Interstate and glanced at the silent children in the rearview mirror and paused.  How do I explain myself?  This was certainly something I had never done before, nor would I recommend it.

I began, “Don’t you ever, ever do that–pick up strangers, I mean.”  Then I sighed and continued, “Well, unless the Holy Spirit or your Guardian Angel tells you to do so.  Then you listen and do as your told.”

Pause.  “That’s why I picked that man up.  I was told to.  But that almost never happens.”

More silence.  “We must pray for this young man, children.”

And so we did.  Perhaps you could offer a small prayer for him too, Dear Readers?

Call Me Catholic

Septuagesima Sunday is Coming

This Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday–in the Old Calendar.  Kind of a funny name, no?  It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent.  Are you ready?

Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays

In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have funny, Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.  They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter.  This next Sunday, we’ll be at Septuagesima.

Well, in the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and Alleluia.  (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.)  All of these things were meant to get you thinking.  Sober up, people!  Let’s start preparing.

The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving

During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent.  We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.

Prayer:

  1. Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day?  If not, what’s stopping you?
  2. For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse?  Every day?
  3. Or how about praying Compline in the evenings?
  4. For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
  5. How about a family rosary?
  6. Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
  7. And finally, go to confession!  At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season.  If you’d like a challenge, consider going every other week or so.
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Again, go to confession!  You won’t regret it.

Fasting:

Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent.  In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot.  And we need it.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?”  And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”

Do you have something in your life that needs casting out?  Try fasting.  Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus?  Try fasting.

If you’ve never done this before, start small.  Give up one meal a week.  If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.

Almsgiving:

This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially.  If you’d like a little more on what the Church officially says, click HERE for Jimmy Akin’s take on tithing and giving.

The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving.  During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:

  1. How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
  2. In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?

The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer.  Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income.  If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2%.  For those of you who’d like a stricter guideline, I once read somewhere to shoot for 5% of your income to your local church, 4% to any charity, and 1% to the Bishop.  This would be a true 10% tithe.  (The word tithe means one tenth.)

If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then consider giving 10% of your total income before taxes.  And tithe that bonus too.

The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice.  For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month.  Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.

In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you!  Just take the first step.

And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge

Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass?  I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist?    Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas?  Or the great missionaries?

For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out.  Don’t worry about not understanding everything.  Most places have hand missals, if you’d like to follow along.  (But you don’t have to.)

If you live around here, we’ve a few options.  Try the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at 9:30am.  Or St. James the Less parish at 11am.  We’ll be there.

Most Popular Posts, Motherhood & Parenting

Most Popular Post of 2019: A Suffering Soul

By far, and I mean, by far, all posts related to Paul were the most popular of 2019.  This touches my heart because in those dark moments, I wasn’t sure if I ought to post anything on him.  I am glad I did, however, for our whole family felt the prayers of everyone.

For those who are interested, today I offer a summary of posts from 2019 chronicling Paul’s journey.  For me, this was emotionally intense to read through, especially the August 15th entry.  That was a desolate moment.  In fact, my stomach is queasy right now just thinking of it.

In any case, here is his story, and I apologize for its great length.  Indeed you may not have time for it.

Paul’s Story

February 13, 2019

Dear Readers,

Today I ask for prayers.

My son’s migraines have been increasing in frequency lately.  Instead of suffering a major episode once every 3-4 weeks, he’s now experiencing them every 5-10 days.  In case you’re new here, his migraines begin with a headache, but quickly advance to an all-out debilitating migraine.  He quits moving; he quits eating.  He curls up in a ball on the couch or his bed and trembles in pain.  His eyes glass over, and he moans.  Hours later, he vomits and vomits.  It takes anywhere from 24-48 hours to come out of it.

After visiting with three of his doctors yesterday, we have yet another CT scan scheduled for tomorrow to check his shunt.  (When he was 3 years old, we discovered an arachnoid cyst that covered 1/3 of his brain.  This shunt continually drains this fluid into his stomach cavity.)  I am not very hopeful, however, that anything will be discovered because he just had an MRI this last fall with everything checking out just fine.

In any case, if you have a minute, stop what you’re doing right now and offer a small prayer for him.  His patron saint is St. Paul, who was no stranger to suffering himself.

May 9, 2019

Dear Readers,

I write this morning asking for prayers again.  Our son, Paul, is currently in Rochester, MN, being monitored at the hospital in the ICU.

My husband and father-in-law drove down a few days ago for an Intracranial Pressure Monitor to be placed under his skull.  This device monitors the pressure in his brain to determine if there’s too much.  For example, the doctor explained, when you have a bowel movement, the pressure levels in your brain reach 30, but only briefly.  Normally the levels of pressure in your brain do not exceed 20 mmHg.

One cannot sustain high levels of pressure for extended periods of time without eventually doing great damage to the brain.  In fact, one of the first things to go are the eyes.  Blindness will result from high, extended levels of pressure.

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Paul, after surgery yesterday with the Intracranial Pressure Monitor

In any case, Paul’s doctors are concerned that his existing shunt, which was placed in 2012 to drain an arachnoid cyst, might be causing problems.  The only way to determine if this is the case, is to monitor it.

Immediately upon placing the monitor on his brain, the doctors noticed elevated levels of pressure of around 40.  Obviously, this is not good.  After a few hours, however, it did go down, when Paul’s migraine went away.

Last night, though, was a rough night.  Paul had another migraine and spend the night intermittently vomiting.  The pressure levels in his brain reached into the 50s and did not return to normal until around 6am.

Later today, we should know more information, as to what the doctor wants to do.  He’s only seen a handful of these cases – children with existing shunts experiencing dreadful migraines.  We are praying that the angels will guide the doctors into making the right decisions.

Please, remember Paul and his doctors in your prayers today.

May 10, 2019

For those of you interested in my son, Paul, here is another update.

Last night he finally slept, and as you can see from the photo below, he woke up with a little more pizzazz.

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Here he is, feeling better.

As an aside, the other day, when the nurses wheeled him in for surgery prep, one of the nurses asked him, “Do you know any jokes?”

With a twinkle in his eye, Paul politely answered, “Yes,” and calmly asked, “Have you seen the new movie called Constipation yet?”

“Nope.  Never heard of it.”

“Well, that’s because it hasn’t come out yet.”

And that, my dear readers, is my son’s favorite joke.

The Plan, In Short

After two days of monitoring the pressure in his brain, his doctors have determined that his existing shunt is malfunctioning and possibly sucking in bits of his brain.  So next Tuesday, Paul will have another surgery to remove the existing shunt and to place a new one in.

One more week of this!  Oh, please pray for me too!

And a Thank You

Lastly, we want to thank Fr. Kasel from the archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul for traveling to Rochester to anoint Paul.  Truly, we are very grateful.  He not only anointed him, but prayed with him, heard his confession, and played cards with him.

May God bless you,  Fr. Kasel!

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Paul, my husband, Shawn, and Fr. Kasel

May 17, 2019

For those of you who are following Paul’s plight, here’s an update.

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On Monday we began the long trek back to Rochester for a second surgery, which lasted about 3 hours.  His doctor reopened his incisions from 7 years ago and made a thorough examination of his old shunt system, beginning with the shunt itself, down to the valve behind his ear, and finally snaking all the way down his neck into his stomach cavity.

The doctor was hoping that he’d discover that it was malfunctioning, which would be an easy explanation for the incredibly high levels of pressure in Paul’s brain during his migraines.  But he did not.  The old shunt was functioning.  Nevertheless, he replaced it with all newer equipment, in hopes that even though the old equipment was functioning, perhaps it wasn’t functioning optimally.

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Here’s a closer shot of two of his incisions.  There’s a third on his stomach, where the tubing ends.

And how was Paul during this four day trial?  Physically he was as well as could be expected, but emotionally and psychologically, he was down.  Very down.  As a mother, this was the hardest thing to watch.  He didn’t want to be in a hospital anymore.  He didn’t want to have wires and tubes sticking out of him.  He didn’t want to wear a hospital gown.  But he didn’t cry about it; he just looked terribly sad.

So we prayed through it.  This time he chose to offer his sufferings for our family.  We prayed rosaries.  We prayed morning and night prayer.  But really, I think he was just exhausted, as we all were.

Finally the day after his surgery in the afternoon, he picked up a little, as the beautiful water fountain out of his window was turned on that day, and he could watch it from his window.

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When he could move around, he sat up in the window and watched the courtyard fill with people enjoying the fountain and warm weather.

My mom and I also walked him down the hall to a pottery class for the children on his floor.  He didn’t want to walk out there in his hospital gown, dragging an IV cart along, but he did.

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Here he is, painting a mug.  The local company that sponsored this activity will fire it and mail it to him.

We also found other things to distract him with.  We watched the Twins play baseball.  (Paul’s a big fan of Rosario, and it was neat to see him hit a few home runs.)  My mom bought a lego set, which he put together, took apart, put together…  We read a few light books, you know, like Frog and Toad.

In the end, it is our hope that this new shunt will somehow alleviate his migraines, and they will disappear.  High levels of pressure in one’s brain is a very serious thing.  Children with hydrocephalus die or go into a coma with the same levels that Paul was experiencing–levels into the 40s and 50s.  But because his levels are cyclic, however, he manages to be ok, and has not had any damage to his brain, yet.

Paul’s doctor has said that if this shunt doesn’t work, then we’ll have to think about another surgery wherein he’ll take apart his cranium and reassemble it with a plastic surgeon to allow for more space, in an attempt to alleviate those pressure levels.

Lastly, a Thank You

Truly, my husband and I are very thankful for the great help of the staff, doctors, and nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.  They’ve all been so helpful and kind.

We’re also greatly indebted to our parents who have done so many things for us over these last four weeks–watching children, cooking meals, paying for hotels and gas and food, allowing us to use their reliable car, and indeed accompanying us on these many trips.  How could we do it without you?  We couldn’t.  May God bless you for your generosity and love.  We love you all so much.

Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has prayed with us during this difficult trial.  As prayers and sacrifices are hidden things, and we may never know about them, we pray that God, who is a great Father, will reward you all abundantly.

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Here he is on the way home.  The doctors gave him some gear to show his siblings.  He’s also sporting his new Twins Rosario t-shirt.  Thank you, Mom!

August 15, 2019

Well, I am back at it, after taking a 3 week break.  During this break I had intended to vacation with my family, attend my brother’s wedding, and enjoy some carefree timelessness.

But nothing has gone as expected.

Rather, two days before we were to leave for South Dakota, my husband and I had to rush our son, Paul, to our local ER.  His incision from last May’s surgery had become infected.  And before we knew it, he and my husband were driving straight through the night to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.

And thus began 3 weeks of the most excruciating suffering I’ve ever known–watching a child suffer.

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Paul Endures Surgery After Surgery

During these last 3 weeks, Paul has undergone surgery after surgery, with almost everything going wrong that could go wrong.  His shunt tubing became blocked.  His heart rate kept dropping dangerously low.  He quit breathing for 10-15 seconds at a time and would struggle for breath, for hours upon hours.  Blood leaked into his brain.  One shunt malfunctioned.  Another shunt slipped out of place.  His left ventricle collapsed.  He hasn’t eaten for days upon days and is losing weight.  He is suffering seizures.  And then there’s all the vomiting.

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All of these things have been happening in addition to the most excruciating head pain.  And we sit helplessly by him and watch and pray.  I’ll never forget the terrible day and night I had to watch his heart rate slow, his breathing cease, and then the trembling of his body to grasp a breath.  It was terrible.

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And it’s still going on.  I beg of you, dear Readers, to remember him in your prayers.  But remember the other children too.  They are suffering in a different way.  They wonder, where is Paul?  Why can’t Paul just come home?  Why can’t the doctors fix him?

We don’t know the answers.  We only know that for some mysterious reason God is allowing this suffering, and we can choose to accept it, or we can drive ourselves mad with endless, unanswerable questions and blame God for ruining a perfectly healthy little boy.

But we choose to trust in Him.  He who is the beginning and the end of all things.  He who created the heavens and the earth.  He who loves us so much that He died for us.  And His name is Jesus.  And all knees on earth and in heaven will bend to Him at the end of time.  May His kingship reign forever and ever.

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Paul Prayer Intentions

In the midst of his suffering, Paul has been praying.  He has been asking Mary to hold him.  And he has been praying for Ex-Cardinal McCarrick and for my cousin, Tony.  Up until today, Tony had been in psyche ward of a hospital.  All within a few years, his brother died in a motorcycle accident, his wife died from cancer, and his father just died last week.

Tony was released this morning.  He drove to his father’s house and killed himself.

Please, Jesus, You have a most merciful heart.  We pray, that in those briefest of moments before his death, Tony in his agony turned towards You.

August 18, 2019

Dear Readers,

We cannot thank you enough for your kind words of encouragement and more importantly, for your prayers.

We have good news today.

After 5 surgeries, and ever since late last Thursday, the Feast of the Assumption, Paul has steadily been getting better.  His heart rate and breathing are normal.  He hasn’t vomited.  He hasn’t had any seizures.  His head does not hurt very much.  He sat up, and he smiled.  He ate and is gaining weight.  He even went for a little walk around the ICU.

And he lost a tooth.

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See that gaping hole on the left?

A good friend of ours drove 8 hours to bring Paul’s two brothers to see him yesterday.  This was a great boost to his morale, which had been waning after 3 and a half weeks in the hospital.

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Here they are, eating dinner together last night with another friend of theirs.
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Paul’s twin, Michael, is in the upper left.  Johnny, Paul’s younger brother is on the right.

If he continues to feel well, the doctors will remove the tubing in his spine, and he may get to come home sometime later this week.  We certainly hope this will be the case.

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Tubing in his spine, which measures pressure levels in the brain.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for praying for him and for our family.  This has been the most difficult trial we’ve ever experienced.

Nevertheless we feel God’s love, and we thank Him.

September 17, 2019

Dear Readers,

I am sorry to have such depressing news lately, but it cannot be helped.  We need your prayers once again for Paul.

Last week he began having prolonged headaches again, and we knew something was up. On Sunday I drove through the night, back to Rochester.  It was an excruciating drive, as he was vomiting, and during intense periods of head pain, his body tightened into a ball, and he slurred his speech, unable to control even his facial muscles.

I prayed that Mary would fly us to the hospital.

Paul prayed for Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, that he might come to his senses, and for my brother, who is suffering from a terrible year of farming.

Well, we made it, and spent a few sleepless hours in the ER.  Yesterday Paul had surgery to revise his shunt once again, which, due to the incredibly small space within which the catheter must go, keeps getting blocked.

Tomorrow he’ll undergo a second surgery to place another shunt in his spine, in hopes of alleviating the pressure in his brain.

Today, Paul is feeling much better.  I am sorry I don’t have a picture to show it.  I am incapable of figuring out how to sync photos from my phone to the laptop.  My Web Master* will hopefully attach a photo later this evening, for those of you who might be interested.  So be sure to check back.

In any case, we pray that this next surgery will be successful, but if not, we pray for the strength and courage to continue suffering this battle.  And if you think of it, would you kindly say a prayer for us too?

* Compliments of the Web Master:

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October 3, 2019

Dear Readers,

Paul is unexpectedly back in the hospital.  (For those of you who are new, click HERE for more details and pictures.)

We are choked with grief, as we watch him suffer.  He’s been vomiting for two days now, as the doctors are deciding what to do.  As it is, they are going to tap his spinal shunt, to see if fluid will come out.  If no fluid comes out, then Paul will have another shunt revision surgery.  If fluid does come out, then that means the shunt system is “working,” but it’s not helping him.  In this case, he’ll have a cranial reconstruction surgery on Monday or Tuesday.  This is where they cut and peel back his skin from ear to ear, take apart his skull, and put it back together, allowing for more space.  (St. Jude, pray for us.)

In the meantime, his doctors will do everything they can to get him through the weekend.  They can go in, open up his cyst, and drain fluid to release pressure, but again, they won’t do the cranial reconstruction surgery until Monday or Tuesday because it requires more doctors and planning.  It is a complex surgery, to say the least.

We should know later tonight which surgery to expect.

This is very painful for all of us.  It’s heart-rending.

Just now, we’ve booked a house within walking distance of the hospital, and the children and I are leaving tomorrow morning to join my husband and Paul.  Our whole family will be together.

Please remember us in your prayers.

P.S.  A friend sent this to me.  I feel it in my heart.  Thank you, dear friend.

October 7, 2019

I want to begin by soberly thanking every one of you who has offered a prayer or a sacrifice for Paul and our family.  Again we are deeply thankful for all the kind words, meals, money, and most especially, the prayers and sacrifices.  God works in mysterious ways, and please know that we feel His love through you all.

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Unfortunately after another shunt revision surgery last Friday, Paul is still hurting.  His head is aching, in an ebb and flow manner, and he isn’t eating well.

Because we were able to secure a house within walking distance of the hospital, however, Paul was allowed to join us.  This has been a great blessing for our family.  It cheers him to be around all his brothers and sisters.

Yesterday we took the whole family and attended a Latin Mass at the shrine in La Crosse, WI, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  During his brief homily the priest paused and said quietly, “One of two things happen, when one begins to pray the rosary every day.  He either quits sinning, or he quits praying the rosary.”

Put so starkly, those words gave me great hope.

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Interior of the Church

Incidentally, we were able to make this pilgrimage to the Shrine through the generosity of some friends.  But also, on a practical level, we were able to take Paul because the Shrine offers rides on a golf cart to those individuals who are unable to make the ten minute hike up the wooded hill to the church.  Our Lady was surely interceding for us!

We prayed for Paul, but also for a friend of ours suffering from cancer and for the Amazon Synod.  We lit a candle in this small chapel on the hillside:

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It was a beautiful day, even if our hearts were aching for our son.

Tomorrow Paul has more appointments, to determine what should or should not be done.  Every day we live in uncertainty as to whether he’ll get better or not.  It is agonizing.  But we continue to trust in God.  We want to be loyal to His will, no matter the cost.

Tomorrow is also Paul’s 11th birthday, which he of course shares with his twin brother, Michael.  (I wrote about their birth HERE.)

But today…today we thank God for his most lovely and fair mother.  Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

 

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3rd Most Popular Post of 2019: 10 Things I Wish I Knew

Today I offer you my 3rd most popular post of 2019:

10 Thing I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago

Homeschooling: Hard, But Rewarding

Now I’ve been homeschooling for about 8 years, and this has been the hardest job I’ve ever had.  It’s certainly harder than when I taught sophomores at a high school.  Or the time I shelved books in a library.  Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park.  Or, well, you get the idea.

And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder.  For example, eight years ago, I only had a kindergartner.  Now I’ve got a 7th-grader, two 5th-graders, a 3rd-grader, and a 1st-grader.  (Not to mention a 3-year-old and a tornado-wrecking-toddler.)  But the good news is, it’s all worth it.

The following is a list of things that I’ve found helpful to remember over these last 8 years.

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10 Things I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago

  1.  Get up before the children do.

Yep, you just need to do it.  You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it.  I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes…  If you can do this, your day is set.

Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible.  For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed.

But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:

“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**

**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting.  She’s hilarious.

  1.  It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

I’ll repeat that: it’s a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

For example, I will never be a crafty mother.  I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts.  If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it.  Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas.  This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family.  I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.

IMG_1655.jpg
This is the extent of my “craftiness.”  The children may draw whatever they want.  Then they can hang it on the Art Wall themselves.  My Art Wall, which adorns a hallway, consists of a white board with a few clothespins stuck on it.

But it goes beyond not worrying about my lack of creativity.  I’ve also got to not worry about all that awesome curricula that other mothers are using and I’m not.  So what if my kids don’t have a Book of Centuries?  Or don’t have official Science books?  I’m ok with that because we’re working on things that we’ve decided are important for our family.

All families will look differently.  And that’s a good thing.

  1.  Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.

This one’s absurd.  Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a “public prison,” by which he meant a public school?  How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself?  Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath.  (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.)  The point is, our children are learning.  And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.

  1.  Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.

This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others.   With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day.  If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  She’s really intense, but insightful.

RuleOfLife.jpg
This is my 3rd or 4th copy, as I keep giving them away.
  1.  Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.

I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five.  I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read.  But with the next two children I spent at least three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself.  (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it.  Amen.)

  1.  Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.

I hate math.  And guess what?  When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it.  But my husband loves math, so a few years ago, he took it over.  (I will love him forever for it.)

In our household, math starts at 7am.  Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well.  If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively.  Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom?  Or, budget for and hire a tutor?  Enroll in an online program?  (We’ve got one enrolled online this year too, and it’s awesome.)

  1.  Eat breakfast like a prison camp.

In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning.  We’ve done it for years.  There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect.

And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast.  On the weekend, there is a reprieve.  Saturday is oatmeal.  Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite.  You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.

IMG_1656.jpg
I keep the bread and PB right above the toaster, as it’s The Eldest’s job to make all 13 slices of toast every morning.
  1.  Learn to say no.

Do you want to destroy your family life?  Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together.

As a culture, we are far too busy.  Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons.  This is ridiculous.  Pick one.

And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night.  This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families.  And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.

  1.  Are you going crazy?

From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out.  I mostly prefer to hide in the laundry room with a glass of wine, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, so sometimes I sneak out to the garage and grab lawn chair.  What do you do to get away?

Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon.  And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

IMG_1290.jpg
This oughtta look classy in the cupholder of my camping chair in the garage.
  1.  Lastly, and most importantly, begin each day with prayer.

This goes along with #1.  Get up before the children and pray.  You need it.  In fact, not only should you have a regular time for prayer every day, but you should also consider a weekly Adoration hour.  Shoot, it might be the only quiet hour of your week.  (It is of mine.)  So, get after it!

Jesus should always come first.

 

If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.

Anyone have other thoughts or ideas?  I’d enjoy hearing about them.

Most Popular Posts

4th Most Popular Post of 2019: Veiling

Today I offer my 4th Most Popular Post of 2019.  It’s on veiling, which I find interesting.  I mean, that so many of you were curious enough to read it, and that some of you must have passed it along to others, as the stats show.

Well, here it is.

Why Do I Veil?

The other day I came across a great article at Catholic Sistas, written by Antonia Goddard, called 5 Reasons to Wear a Veil (and Five Not to…).  For any of you who might be curious about veiling, click over there and check it out.  She’s spot on.  (I especially appreciate #4.)

My own experience with veiling began around 15 years ago.  I was living in St. Paul, MN, and was attending St. Agnes Catholic Church.  At the time I had never even seen a veil.  And there I was, attending both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass, and there were women veiling all around me.  It was beautiful, and my heart wondered about it, and I was drawn to this tradition.  Naturally, I began to pray about it.

Two years later, I ended up in Bismarck, ND, where such things as veiling and the TLM were sighted as often as the Lock Ness Monster.  They just didn’t exist.  And my heart ached for them both.

Should I Start Veiling?

I spoke to my spiritual director about veiling, but he didn’t know anything about it, being from the area and likely never having attended a TLM.  But he suggested that I continue to ask Jesus for guidance in wearing it, and that I just begin to veil at home during prayer and also at Adoration.

Of course I immediately did this, and it was great for me, because I became used to having something on my head, but more importantly, it gave me time to learn about it, for I wanted to be sure I was desiring it for the right reasons.  (Again, see Antonia’s article HERE.)

IMG_0984.jpeg
The 3-year-old modeling her older sister’s veil.

Over those early years, my heart did grow in love for Jesus and with the desire to veil at Mass, whether it be the TLM or the Novus Ordo, for wasn’t Jesus present at both?  But I was scared too.  What would people say about me?  Would they think I was being prideful?  Or holier-than-thou?

Eventually those fears, however, melted away, for how could I presume to know what other people were thinking?  Why should I attribute negative thoughts to them?  I know I certainly try to curb my own negative thoughts.  It’s just best to not live in other people’s minds.

IMG_0986.jpeg
The 6-year-old modeling one of my veils.

So after a few more years of praying, I brought the matter before my spiritual director again, and he agreed.  It was time–my heart was in the right place.  And so I began veiling at Mass–at both Masses, the Novus Ordo and the TLM.

IMG_0987.jpeg
The Eldest modeling my black veil.

And What Do People Say?

Surprisingly, I’ve never received a negative comment about veiling.

I do think, however, I have some family members who think I’m crazy, but they never say anything, and I don’t ask!  Probably other people think I’m crazy too, but most people are just used to seeing me this way.

I have, however, received positive comments from other women, both young and old.  Generally the older women touch my arm after Mass and look into my eyes and say, “I, too, used to veil.  Thank you for veiling.”  And the younger women say, “I’ve always wanted to veil.  Where did you get it?”

SN107976.jpg
Look closely to the right, in the first pew.  There we are, veiling.  I’m holding the wriggling baby, but the veil is staying put!

Practical Matters

Where do I buy my veils?

I buy them online at Veils by Lily.  I prefer these veils because for a few additional dollars, they will sew a clip or a comb into the veil.  (You can do this yourself; it’s just that I detest sewing.)  And these clips are absolutely necessary for any mother with children.  This way my babies can grab all they want, and it’s not coming off.  It’s also nice to not worry about the veil slipping.

IMG_1483.jpg
See the clips?  Genius.

It’s better to buy locally, though, if you can.  For those of you living in the Bismarck/Mandan area, Mayo Pharmacy on 4th street now carries beautiful veils.  You can walk right downtown and buy one.

And how about colors and styles of veils?

Over the years I’ve noticed that married women tend to wear darker veils, mostly black, and unmarried girls tend to wear lighter colors, mostly white.  While there is no rule about it, I kind of like this distinction.  White is a great symbol of virginal purity and black has always been a reminder of our death to this world.

But really, you can wear whatever color or style you want.  Go with what’s comfortable.  I’ve seen it all.

Any questions?  Be sure to ask!

Homeschooling, Most Popular Posts, Motherhood & Parenting

10 Things I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago

Well here we go again – the start of another school year.

For those of you interested in homeschooling, today I’ve updated my List of 10 in honor of another year of teaching.  For the original, see HERE.

Homeschooling: Hard, But Rewarding

Now I’ve been homeschooling for about 8 years, and this has been the hardest job I’ve ever had.  It’s certainly harder than when I taught sophomores at a high school.  Or the time I shelved books in a library.  Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park.  Or, well, you get the idea.

And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder.  For example, eight years ago, I only had a kindergartner.  Now I’ve got a 7th-grader, two 5th-graders, a 3rd-grader, and a 1st-grader.  (Not to mention a 3-year-old and a tornado-wrecking-toddler.)  But the good news is, it’s all worth it.

The following is a list of things that I’ve found helpful to remember over these last 8 years.

IMG_1639.jpg

10 Things I Wish I Knew 8 Years Ago

  1.  Get up before the children do.

Yep, you just need to do it.  You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it.  I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes…  If you can do this, your day is set.

Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible.  For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed.

But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:

“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**

**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting.  She’s hilarious.

  1.  It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

I’ll repeat that: it’s a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

For example, I will never be a crafty mother.  I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts.  If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it.  Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas.  This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family.  I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.

IMG_1655.jpg
This is the extent of my “craftiness.”  The children may draw whatever they want.  Then they can hang it on the Art Wall themselves.  My Art Wall, which adorns a hallway, consists of a white board with a few clothespins stuck on it.

But it goes beyond not worrying about my lack of creativity.  I’ve also got to not worry about all that awesome curricula that other mothers are using and I’m not.  So what if my kids don’t have a Book of Centuries?  Or don’t have official Science books?  I’m ok with that because we’re working on things that we’ve decided are important for our family.

All families will look differently.  And that’s a good thing.

  1.  Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.

This one’s absurd.  Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a “public prison,” by which he meant a public school?  How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself?  Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath.  (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.)  The point is, our children are learning.  And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.

  1.  Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.

This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others.   With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day.  If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  She’s really intense, but insightful.

RuleOfLife.jpg
This is my 3rd or 4th copy, as I keep giving them away.
  1.  Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.

I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five.  I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read.  But with the next two children I spent at least three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself.  (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it.  Amen.)

  1.  Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.

I hate math.  And guess what?  When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it.  But my husband loves math, so a few years ago, he took it over.  (I will love him forever for it.)

In our household, math starts at 7am.  Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well.  If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively.  Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom?  Or, budget for and hire a tutor?  Enroll in an online program?  (We’ve got one enrolled online this year too, and it’s awesome.)

  1.  Eat breakfast like a prison camp.

In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning.  We’ve done it for years.  There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect.

And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast.  On the weekend, there is a reprieve.  Saturday is oatmeal.  Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite.  You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.

IMG_1656.jpg
I keep the bread and PB right above the toaster, as it’s The Eldest’s job to make all 13 slices of toast every morning.
  1.  Learn to say no.

Do you want to destroy your family life?  Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together.

As a culture, we are far too busy.  Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons.  This is ridiculous.  Pick one.

And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night.  This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families.  And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.

  1.  Are you going crazy?

From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out.  I mostly prefer to hide in the laundry room with a glass of wine, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, so sometimes I sneak out to the garage and grab lawn chair.  What do you do to get away?

Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon.  And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

IMG_1290.jpg
This oughtta look classy in the cupholder of my camping chair in the garage.
  1.  Lastly, and most importantly, begin each day with prayer.

This goes along with #1.  Get up before the children and pray.  You need it.  In fact, not only should you have a regular time for prayer every day, but you should also consider a weekly Adoration hour.  Shoot, it might be the only quiet hour of your week.  (It is of mine.)  So, get after it!

Jesus should always come first.

 

If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.

Anyone have other thoughts or ideas?  I’d enjoy hearing about them.

Life is Worth Living

Paul’s Suffering: Updated

Dear Readers,

We cannot thank you enough for your kind words of encouragement and more importantly, for your prayers.

We have good news today.

After 5 surgeries, and ever since late last Thursday, the Feast of the Assumption, Paul has steadily been getting better.  His heart rate and breathing are normal.  He hasn’t vomited.  He hasn’t had any seizures.  His head does not hurt very much.  He sat up, and he smiled.  He ate and is gaining weight.  He even went for a little walk around the ICU.

And he lost a tooth.

IMG_1591.jpg
See that gaping hole on the left?

A good friend of ours drove 8 hours to bring Paul’s two brothers to see him yesterday.  This was a great boost to his morale, which had been waning after 3 and a half weeks in the hospital.

IMG_1596.jpg
Here they are, eating dinner together last night with another friend of theirs.
IMG_1616.jpg
Paul’s twin, Michael, is in the upper left.  Johnny, Paul’s younger brother is on the right.

If he continues to feel well, the doctors will remove the tubing in his spine, and he may get to come home sometime later this week.  We certainly hope this will be the case.

IMG_1604.jpg
Tubing in his spine, which measures pressure levels in the brain.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for praying for him and for our family.  This has been the most difficult trial we’ve ever experienced.

Nevertheless we feel God’s love, and we thank Him.

 

 

Call Me Catholic, Most Popular Posts

Why do I veil?

The other day I came across a great article at Catholic Sistas, written by Antonia Goddard, called 5 Reasons to Wear a Veil (and Five Not to…).  For any of you who might be curious about veiling, click over there and check it out.  She’s spot on.  (I especially appreciate #4.)

My own experience with veiling began around 15 years ago.  I was living in St. Paul, MN, and was attending St. Agnes Catholic Church.  At the time I had never even seen a veil.  And there I was, attending both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass, and there were women veiling all around me.  It was beautiful, and my heart wondered about it, and I was drawn to this tradition.  Naturally, I began to pray about it.

Two years later, I ended up in Bismarck, ND, where such things as veiling and the TLM were sighted as often as the Lock Ness Monster.  They just didn’t exist.  And my heart ached for them both.

Should I Start Veiling?

I spoke to my spiritual director about veiling, but he didn’t know anything about it, being from the area and likely never having attended a TLM.  But he suggested that I continue to ask Jesus for guidance in wearing it, and that I just begin to veil at home during prayer and also at Adoration.

Of course I immediately did this, and it was great for me, because I became used to having something on my head, but more importantly, it gave me time to learn about it, for I wanted to be sure I was desiring it for the right reasons.  (Again, see Antonia’s article HERE.)

IMG_0984.jpeg
The 3-year-old modeling her older sister’s veil.

Over those early years, my heart did grow in love for Jesus and with the desire to veil at Mass, whether it be the TLM or the Novus Ordo, for wasn’t Jesus present at both?  But I was scared too.  What would people say about me?  Would they think I was being prideful?  Or holier-than-thou?

Eventually those fears, however, melted away, for how could I presume to know what other people were thinking?  Why should I attribute negative thoughts to them?  I know I certainly try to curb my own negative thoughts.  It’s just best to not live in other people’s minds.

IMG_0986.jpeg
The 6-year-old modeling one of my veils.

So after a few more years of praying, I brought the matter before my spiritual director again, and he agreed.  It was time–my heart was in the right place.  And so I began veiling at Mass–at both Masses, the Novus Ordo and the TLM.

IMG_0987.jpeg
The Eldest modeling my black veil.

And What Do People Say?

Surprisingly, I’ve never received a negative comment about veiling.

I do think, however, I have some family members who think I’m crazy, but they never say anything, and I don’t ask!  Probably other people think I’m crazy too, but most people are just used to seeing me this way.

I have, however, received positive comments from other women, both young and old.  Generally the older women touch my arm after Mass and look into my eyes and say, “I, too, used to veil.  Thank you for veiling.”  And the younger women say, “I’ve always wanted to veil.  Where did you get it?”

SN107976.jpg
Look closely to the right, in the first pew.  There we are, veiling.  I’m holding the wriggling baby, but the veil is staying put!

Practical Matters

Where do I buy my veils?

I buy them online at Veils by Lily.  I prefer these veils because for a few additional dollars, they will sew a clip or a comb into the veil.  (You can do this yourself; it’s just that I detest sewing.)  And these clips are absolutely necessary for any mother with children.  This way my babies can grab all they want, and it’s not coming off.  It’s also nice to not worry about the veil slipping.

IMG_1483.jpg
See the clips?  Genius.

It’s better to buy locally, though, if you can.  For those of you living in the Bismarck/Mandan area, Mayo Pharmacy on 4th street now carries beautiful veils.  You can walk right downtown and buy one.

And how about colors and styles of veils?

Over the years I’ve noticed that married women tend to wear darker veils, mostly black, and unmarried girls tend to wear lighter colors, mostly white.  While there is no rule about it, I kind of like this distinction.  White is a great symbol of virginal purity and black has always been a reminder of our death to this world.

But really, you can wear whatever color or style you want.  Go with what’s comfortable.  I’ve seen it all.

Any questions?  Be sure to ask!

And for the fun of it…

Photo of the Week

IMG_1484.jpg
Check out this 4 foot serpent.

We accidentally ran this thing over on our way to Mass.  Of course we had to pull over and check it out.  You can see the guts protruding in the middle of it.  We think it’s a bull snake.  (YUCK!)

Motherhood & Parenting

Paul’s Surgery is Done

For those of you who are following Paul’s plight, here’s an update.

IMG_1326.jpg

On Monday we began the long trek back to Rochester for a second surgery, which lasted about 3 hours.  His doctor reopened his incisions from 7 years ago and made a thorough examination of his old shunt system, beginning with the shunt itself, down to the valve behind his ear, and finally snaking all the way down his neck into his stomach cavity.

The doctor was hoping that he’d discover that it was malfunctioning, which would be an easy explanation for the incredibly high levels of pressure in Paul’s brain during his migraines.  But he did not.  The old shunt was functioning.  Nevertheless, he replaced it with all newer equipment, in hopes that even though the old equipment was functioning, perhaps it wasn’t functioning optimally.

IMG_1325.jpg
Here’s a closer shot of two of his incisions.  There’s a third on his stomach, where the tubing ends.

And how was Paul during this four day trial?  Physically he was as well as could be expected, but emotionally and psychologically, he was down.  Very down.  As a mother, this was the hardest thing to watch.  He didn’t want to be in a hospital anymore.  He didn’t want to have wires and tubes sticking out of him.  He didn’t want to wear a hospital gown.  But he didn’t cry about it; he just looked terribly sad.

So we prayed through it.  This time he chose to offer his sufferings for our family.  We prayed rosaries.  We prayed morning and night prayer.  But really, I think he was just exhausted, as we all were.

Finally the day after his surgery in the afternoon, he picked up a little, as the beautiful water fountain out of his window was turned on that day, and he could watch it from his window.

IMG_1330.jpg
When he could move around, he sat up in the window and watched the courtyard fill with people enjoying the fountain and warm weather.

My mom and I also walked him down the hall to a pottery class for the children on his floor.  He didn’t want to walk out there in his hospital gown, dragging an IV cart along, but he did.

IMG_1331.jpg
Here he is, painting a mug.  The local company that sponsored this activity will fire it and mail it to him.

We also found other things to distract him with.  We watched the Twins play baseball.  (Paul’s a big fan of Rosario, and it was neat to see him hit a few home runs.)  My mom bought a lego set, which he put together, took apart, put together…  We read a few light books, you know, like Frog and Toad.

In the end, it is our hope that this new shunt will somehow alleviate his migraines, and they will disappear.  High levels of pressure in one’s brain is a very serious thing.  Children with hydrocephalus die or go into a coma with the same levels that Paul was experiencing–levels into the 40s and 50s.  But because his levels are cyclic, however, he manages to be ok, and has not had any damage to his brain, yet.

Paul’s doctor has said that if this shunt doesn’t work, then we’ll have to think about another surgery wherein he’ll take apart his cranium and reassemble it with a plastic surgeon to allow for more space, in an attempt to alleviate those pressure levels.

Lastly, a Thank You

Truly, my husband and I are very thankful for the great help of the staff, doctors, and nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.  They’ve all been so helpful and kind.

We’re also greatly indebted to our parents who have done so many things for us over these last four weeks–watching children, cooking meals, paying for hotels and gas and food, allowing us to use their reliable car, and indeed accompanying us on these many trips.  How could we do it without you?  We couldn’t.  May God bless you for your generosity and love.  We love you all so much.

Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has prayed with us during this difficult trial.  As prayers and sacrifices are hidden things, and we may never know about them, we pray that God, who is a great Father, will reward you all abundantly.

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Here he is on the way home.  The doctors gave him some gear to show his siblings.  He’s also sporting his new Twins Rosario t-shirt.  Thank you, Mom!
Call Me Catholic, Homeschooling

Homeschooling With the Faith: An Essay by the Eldest

As many of you know, I’ve been gone for the last 7 days, attending medical appointments for our son.  We are still not done with this process, but hopefully soon we’ll have some answers.

So today, I offer a little essay written by the Eldest, our 12-year-old.  The other day she wrote an essay for a competition in our homeschool coop.  She worked very hard on it, so I thought I’d share what she wrote for fun.

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Here she is, diligently working on her dreaded math.

Without further ado…

Homeschooling With the Faith: An Essay by The Eldest

My family homeschools, so homeschooling is living the Faith every moment of everyday.  The Faith is not a subject to be pulled out and then put away. The Faith penetrates everything we do. Here are three glimpses of how my family tries to walk with Jesus throughout the day.

Our family begins each day with prayer.  At 6:40 a.m. my alarm goes off, and I tiptoe upstairs to our living room.  My parents are already up and they have been praying for a half hour in the light from our gas fireplace and votive candles.  I find a blanket and attempt to start my day with God. Pretty soon my brothers also come straggling upstairs and pack themselves like sardines on the loveseat to read saint books.  After prayer, I go to face the bane of my existence–math.

At supper, my father reads the saint of the day from Father Alban Butlers’ Lives of the Saints or in Lent he reads the Stational Church for the day.  Every night my father makes the sacrifice of watching his family eat their food while he reads and endures interruptions.  My family listens and then we talk about the lessons from the saint’s life. This is part of our instruction in the Faith.

At the end of the day our family comes together for the rosary.  Everyone drops what they are doing and comes running or walking.  All of us take a rosary from the rosary hooks and kneel or sit in front of our picture of Mary.  Well, actually the baby generally tries to eat a rosary, which despite diligent practice has never quite come off perfectly.  After praying the Rosary, my siblings and I go to bed with Dad’s blessing.  And that is the end of our homeschool day!

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She thought it was too early in the morning to smile, but I got her to!
Call Me Catholic

It’s Sexagesima Sunday

Yep, this Sunday is Sexagesima Sunday, in the Old Calendar.  Kind of a funny name, no?  It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent.  Are you ready?

Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays

In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have funny, Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.  They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter.  This next Sunday, we’ll be at Sexagesima.  Clear as mud?

Well, in the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and Alleluia.  (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.)  All of these things were meant to get you thinking.  Sober up, people!  Let’s start preparing.

The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving

During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent.  We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.

Prayer:

  1. Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day?  If not, what’s stopping you?
  2. For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse?  Every day?
  3. Or how about praying Compline in the evenings?  (There’s an excellent book, The Office of Compline, by Fr. Samuel Weber.)
  4. For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
  5. How about a family rosary?
  6. Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
  7. And finally, go to confession!  At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season.  If you’d like a challenge, consider going every week or so.
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Again, go to confession!  You won’t regret it.

Fasting:

Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent.  In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot.  And we need it.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?”  And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”

Do you have something in your life that needs casting out?  Try fasting.  Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus?  Try fasting.

If you’ve never done this before, start small  Give up one meal a week.

If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.

Almsgiving:

This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially.  If you’d like a little more on what the Church officially says, click HERE for Jimmy Akin’s take on tithing and giving.

The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving.  During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:

  1. How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
  2. In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?

The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer.  Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income.  If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2%.  For those of you who’d like a stricter guideline, I once read somewhere to shoot for 5% of your income to your local church, 4% to any charity, and 1% to the Bishop.  This would be a true 10% tithe.  (The word tithe means one tenth.)

If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then consider giving 10% of your total income before taxes.  And tithe that bonus too.

The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice.  For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month.  Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.

In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you!  Just take the first step.

And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge

Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass?  I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist?    Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas?  Or the great missionaries?

For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out.  Don’t worry about not understanding everything.  Most places have hand missals, if you’d like to follow along.  (But you don’t have to.)

If you live around here, we’ve got one this Sunday at Christ the King Church in Mandan at 11:30.  I’d love to see you there.